Our relationships have seasons, just like the world. The blossoming happiness and warmth of spring and the sizzle of summer happen to be two of my favorite relationship seasons. Rainbows and birds and tanned skin and L.O.V.E. Aren’t they blissful?
I’m not in one of those seasons right now.
We also have the messy seasons, right? Fall is the time when the leaves start falling and everything seems like it’s dying. This time is full of short tempers, minimized intimacy and a growing list of frustrations. And winter? That’s the brutal time. The make it or break it time. The “we aren’t even talking or sleeping together time.”
It is easy to be romantic during spring or summer seasons. That is the Laguna Beach vacation time. Who wouldn’t want to be all lovey-dovey under those conditions? It is during the hard times that romance seems too far away. When everything in your world feels messy… investing in your relationship may be the last thing on your mind. But it should actually take priority. Romance needs to stay alive – it’s the fire that keeps you going until the snow melts.
Maybe you are in this difficult season because one or both of you seriously messed up or stopped trying. Sometimes we really are the authors of our own messes. But maybe you are in this difficult season due to reasons beyond your control: issues with your children, health problems, job loss, family conflicts, etc.
I know this well. A mix of illness, financial issues, moving stress, and family/friend conflicts has left my beloved partner and I in the midst of our own “fall” season. Life is messy for us right now. Simply because I’m writing about it, does not mean I’m not going through it right there with you. We have been here before, so we know how to get through it.
If you are in an awesome season of hot love in your relationship, that’s great. Keep reading though because tough times are absolutely going to come. For those in a hard season, like myself, – keep reading too: the ideal situation is to cycle through the rough times back into the good times, not to stay stuck in the rocky moments. And romance just may be the key to keep on going.
Here are 18 ways that you can incorporate romance even in the hard times. These tips are for the tough cookies among us who refuse to let our love burn out, even when things get tough.
1. Keep The Date Nights Going
Ever heard of fake it until you make it? When you continue to practice the art of romance, it will start to take a new hold on your life. Even if life is ridiculously busy, plan two date nights this month. If you have enough time to read this article, you have enough time for a quick coffee date with your partner.
2. Make The Date Nights Special
Boredom is one insidious killer of romance. Try new things for your date night. Special does not have to equal expensive. Here is one of our favorites. Many art galleries have reception nights. They often offer free wine and appetizers while displaying new art. This is a fun perfect new date night for couples of any age and background.
3. Offer Extra Words of Encouragement
If you are struggling, your partner is struggling, too. Find a way to offer some extra encouragement throughout each day. Even if you are angry or overwhelmed, find something great your partner did that day even if it is as small as saying, “good job for going into work today even though we are exhausted.”
4. Flirt More
Flirting is Romance 101, and even after being in a relationship for a while, some people feel like they still do not know how to do it. Start small. “You look sexy” is perfectly flirtatious or let your glance stay an extra few seconds. If you are attracted to anything about your partner, speak it out. It will make you feel lively again.
5. Don’t Forget To Make Love
Sex is powerful. Sex is important. Have it. Other than in the case of illness that prevents sex, connecting with each other in this way is a vital step in not only keeping the romance alive, but keeping the two of you close and connected. It’s okay to go slow; in fact, remember how fun it was to simply “mess around” when you were younger. It’s also okay to make it a daily habit. It is a natural stress buster, after all, go for it.
6. Touch Each Other
Simply touching each other is powerful and in no way has to be directly sexual. A hand on the knee or a quick neck massage shows your partner you have noticed them and want to bring them pleasure. Switching off back good massages with jojoba oil is a favorite in my house.
7. Embrace The Element of Surprise
When life is messy, we may feel like simply getting out of bed, going to work, and preparing dinner is all we can manage. But carving out even a few minutes to brainstorm a surprise for your partner is extremely valuable. Brainstorming may not seem naturally romantic, but great surprises take thought. Think about ways to make your partner feel special.
8. Make Normal Things Romantic
Increase your romantic awareness and find ways to include connection in your normal day-to-day lives. If you are watching a series together on Netflix, do it while cuddling on the couch instead of sitting in separate chairs. Light a candle with dinner even if the kids are around. They will love the special time too. This is about making the ordinary extraordinary.
9. Have “Stress Free” Zones
When you are fighting a lot or even simply in the midst of heavy stress, taking a time out is important. Explain to your partner that for the next hour in this room, you two will not be discussing the things that are bringing you the most stress. You can only discuss and do things that bring you both joy.
10. Find A Way To Eliminate One Stressor For Each Of You
Typically difficult times in our relationships come during times that feel like “when it rains it pours.” If you each agree to help remove one stressful thing from each other’s lives, you will have more room for each other. Run an errand for the other person, take over a particular chore, or help them finish a large project.
11. Get Physical
Being active together is a total turn on. Whether it is going to the gym together or simply taking a long and leisurely walk, you both will be doing a naturally stress-reducing activity together. Just recently my partner and I did a push-up contest. He undoubtedly won, but we worked out and laughed plenty.
12. Share a Shower
Is the steamy shower scene cliché? Possibly. Is it still effective? Definitely! You both need to shower, so you might as well do it together. Naked and wet is always one of the best ways to spark some romance.
13. Say “No!”
Every time you say “yes” to something, you automatically say “no” to something else. Don’t make your partner the one who gets all the “no”s. If you are filling your precious time and energy with people and events you are not interested in (or entirely stressed out by), you are leaving yourself depleted for your partner. It is time to be ruthless. No, I don’t want to go to your third baby shower. No, I don’t want take extra shifts. No, I don’t want to volunteer as Team Mom.
14. Practice These Words
“I forgive you.” You will say them over and over in your relationship, and even more so when life is messy. “I forgive you.” Honestly, those words are way more romantic than any pickup line or sexy comment. Use them generously.
15. Have A Vent Buddy That Isn’t Your Partner
Of course, one of the reasons we have partners is to go through life together – the good and the bad. But if you vent and spew all your stress and issues onto your partner only, you are giving them quite a load to bear. Still communicate, still be honest, but share the wealth, so to speak. Have two or three trusted girlfriends who can help you work through life’s stresses with you.
16. Laugh With Your Partner
My guess is that as life gets more and more messy, you find yourself laughing less and less. Laughing together is an incredibly connecting experience. When my partner and I were going through a unusually stressful week, we finished each day by watching a couple episodes of Modern Family on Netflix. It makes us both laugh out loud. No matter how stressful the day was or how annoyed or hurt we felt, we finished the day positively.
17. Value Time By Yourself
It may seem counterintuitive that the way to enhance your relationship comes from spending time away from your partner, but it’s true. Date yourself a bit. Go out and do the things you love to do away from your partner (my favorite: Indian food and a shopping afternoon). When you meet back up, you will be refreshed and recharged.
18. Plan A Romantic Getaway
Sometimes the best way to reignite the connection is to step away from the stress. In other words, if your relationship is in wintertime, fly south and get some sunshine. No need to stay where it’s cold. Worried about an added expense? Remember that investing in a weekend away may save your relationship. It’s worth it.
It is completely normal to go through the more difficult seasons in our relationships. The goal is not to avoid any hard time (it is a pointless endeavor), but to be intentional about keeping the romance strong, healthy, and sizzling though all the seasons of your relationship.